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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Taiwan: Supreme Prosecutors' Office defends swift execution of Taipei metro killer

Cheng Chieh
Cheng Chieh
The judiciary followed proper procedure and defense lawyers filing an extraordinary appeal cannot be the basis for suspending procedures to carry out a death sentence, the Supreme Prosecutors' Office said yesterday in response to controversy surrounding the execution of convicted Taipei MRT killer Cheng Chieh

Cheng's lawyers, Liang Chia-ying, Huang Chih-hao and Lin Chun-hung, tried to win a last-minute reprieve for their client by submitting an extraordinary appeal to the prosecutor-general on Tuesday night, seeking a stay of execution.

However, the document arrived at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office at 9pm, 13 minutes after Cheng's execution, with the 1st gunshot fired by the executioner at 8:47pm.

The defense lawyers said in a statement that the judiciary had violated judicial procedure throughout the case and kept the decision to order Cheng's execution secret, adding that they were in the process of filing for an extraordinary appeal, seeking a retrial and wanted a constitutional interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices.

"The Ministry of Justice carried out the execution swiftly and did not contact the family of the accused or defense lawyers. This resulted in the accused not having sufficient time to allow the defense to initiate 'criminal special aid procedures,' and this is a deprivation of the accused right to life. It has violated international human rights conventions, and we regret what has taken place," the lawyers said.

The Supreme Prosecutors' Office said the proper judicial procedures for carrying out capital punishment had been followed and cited a need to maintain secrecy upon approval of an execution order.

It said that there are no legal requirements to contact the prisoner's family, or defense lawyers prior to an execution.

"Even if the extraordinary appeal was submitted before carrying out the execution, according to The Code of Criminal Procedure, it cannot serve as the basis to suspend the said procedure," it said.

Cheng left a will for his family, written after the Supreme Court's final verdict on April 22 upholding 4 death sentences.

He also reportedly wrote a short apology to his family.

The EU yesterday issued a statement urging the government to introduce an immediate moratorium on the death penalty following Cheng's execution. Saying that it recognizes the serious nature of the crimes and expresses sympathy to all those who suffered, it added that the "death penalty can never be justified as it has no deterrent effect ... [the EU] calls for its universal abolition."

Source: Taipei Times, May 13, 2016

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